Not since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has a president received such a resounding mandate to deal decisively with a deep economic crisis. An enraged and energized public that is crying for government to jumpstart the crumbling economy, to spread health care for all, and to end a devastating war just gave a resounding majority to Barack Obama.

Obama’s victory couldn’t have been more decisive. He won by over 7 million votes. To get a sense of how huge that number is, Gore in 2000 got half a million more votes than Bush, and Bush in 2004 took 3.5 million more than Kerry. Obama won every state he possibly could have won, including Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Colorado, and Nevada. This is what a resounding mandate looks like. He won every group except older people and white men by huge amounts, including the Hispanic vote. Obama did it. The country did it.

The shockers were in the Senate. Democrats won five races easily, to go up to 56 in the Senate (including Sanders (I-VT) and Lieberman (I-CT)). They won NH, CO, NM, VA, and NC. These were not surprises as Democrats were projected to win these races. But, Democrats look like they will lose two seats that most analysts were sure they’d win: the Republican Gordon Smith beat Merkley in Oregon by 12,000 votes, and believe it or not, the convicted felon Ted Stevens looks like he won Alaska by 3,000 votes. The one squeaker that will be too close to call for many days is in Minnesota, where Republican Norm Coleman is ahead of Al Franken by 732 votes. This will be the Florida in 2000 of the 2008 election. Many recounts later, Franken could squeak through, but it is unlikely.

In the House, Democrats gained 24 more seats to gain a 259 to 176 lead over Republicans. Democrats gained five seats in the Senate, and lost none.

All of us at IPS are deeply struck with the impact of the election. And I want to share with you parts of emails my colleagues sent to me this morning:

Steve Cobble, Associate Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime election — we just elected an African-American president in a nation where five of the first seven presidents were slave-owners. Our nation hasn’t had democratic victories like this since the Great Depression. A new era is upon us.”

Bill Fletcher, Jr., Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy Studies; Executive Editor,
“After a historic election victory, a new set of challenges begins. Moving a progressive agenda will necessitate organization on the ground, otherwise this victory will have been hollow.”

Karen Dolan, Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies
“There’s no doubt that this a transformation moment. It now falls on progressives to make sure it becomes a transformation era. Today we savor the possibilities of obtaining universal health care and green jobs, ending the wars, and narrowing the racial and economic divides that have held back progress for so long. Tomorrow we roll up our sleeves and work harder than ever. Honeymoons are for better times.”

Clearly our nation faces great challenges ahead. The success of his presidency will require quick and decisive action, but with fewer financial resources than the government has had in a long time. But we at IPS, along with much of the nation, see great hope in the days ahead. We look forward to working with you and the broader progressive community in putting our nation back on better track as we turn new “Ideas into Action for Peace, Justice and the Environment.”

Erik Leaver is a research fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and the policy outreach director for Foreign Policy In Focus. John Cavanagh is the director of the Institute for Policy Studies, a member of the New Economy Working Group, and co-author of Development Redefined: How the Market Met its Match (Paradigm, 2008).

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